The Virtual-Environment-Foraging Task enables rapid training and single-trial metrics of rule acquisition and reversal in head-fixed mice
Number of pages
SourceScientific Reports, 9, (2019), article 4790
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC SMN
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; Neuroinformatics; Radboudumc 7: Neurodevelopmental disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Behavioural flexibility is an essential survival skill, yet our understanding of its neuronal substrates is still limited. While mouse research offers unique tools to dissect the neuronal circuits involved, the measurement of flexible behaviour in mice often suffers from long training times, poor experimental control, and temporally imprecise binary (hit/miss) performance readouts. Here we present a virtual-environment task for mice that tackles these limitations. It offers fast training of vision-based rule reversals (~100 trials per reversal) with full stimulus control and continuous behavioural readouts. By generating multiple non-binary performance metrics per trial, it provides single-trial estimates not only of response accuracy and speed, but also of underlying processes like choice certainty and alertness (discussed in detail in a companion paper). Based on these metrics, we show that mice can predict new task rules long before they are able to execute them, and that this delay varies across animals. We also provide and validate single-trial estimates of whether an error was committed with or without awareness of the task rule. By tracking in unprecedented detail the cognitive dynamics underlying flexible behaviour, this task enables new investigations into the neuronal interactions that shape behavioural flexibility moment by moment.
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